Saturday, 20 October 2012


ScienceGrrl calendars at the launch party
Photograph by Suzi Gage
Barely three months after the idea was conceived, the calendar is a physical entity. And to launch it, a group of glammed up calendar stars, press types and various others convened on Thursday 18th October at the Smith Centre, part of the Science Museum.

My day started when I met ScienceGrrl director Heather Williams and Ellie Cosgrave at calendar producer Louise Crane’s house (aka “Crumble Towers” after her Twitter handle, @lulucrumble). Ellie and I are both production assistants, and have helped Louise out with numerous little tasks from organising photo shoot venues to ordering envelopes. 

I arrived around 4pm, and the flat was a hive of activity. There were boxes of calendars that had just arrived, bags, business cards... and biscuits. These FABULOUS cookies were designed by @quirkycookies (real name Wendy Staples!) who was also at Crumble Towers along with her husband and daughter. To top it off, Louise’s family were there too, all squashed into her one-bedroom flat. Her poor seven-week-old kitten Loki didn’t know what to make of it all - though I suspect he probably thought we were all there to see him.

We set about glamming ourselves up whilst stuffing the goody bags with treats, and before long we were in taxis heading to the Smith Centre.

Science biscuits made by Quirky Cookies for the ScienceGrrl Calendar launch party
Photo by Suzi Gage; biscuits by Wendy Staples at
We arrived to an excellent room, full of all sorts of scientific curios, and the bar was already set up. We had barely finished laying out the calendars when the crowds started amassing. It was great fun standing by the calendars, and watching people come over and look at the pictures. As they flicked through the months, I often heard, ‘ooh this is a great picture, OH I like this one, oooh, this one’s even better’. Julie Gould did exceptional work manning the stall, thanks Julie! <Ed: special thanks also to you Suzi! or should I say, Disco Bambi!>

Lizzie Quill was our “go to” at the Science Museum. She laid on a great evening, with plenty of space to mingle, and with drinks and conversation flowing. Thanks should also go to Science Grrl’s party organiser Jon Wood who I don’t think I saw stand still the whole night!

But the stars of the show (apart from the calendars themselves) were Heather and Louise. Both had put in SO MUCH work, and to see them turn around a professional, beautiful calendar in such a short time was astounding, I feel really lucky to have been a part of it! Their speeches were excellent, their enthusiasm came across, which explains why they were able to put in such a superhuman effort. There were flowers and gifts for them, as well as gifts for myself and Ellie. I got MRSA - the cuddly microbe that is... Ellie, an engineer, received an amoeba that Louise insists looks like the Eiffel Tower...

Heather Williams, Louise Crane and Lucy Harper at the ScienceGrrl Calendar launch party
Photograph by Della Thomas
A special mention should also go to the fabulous Mrs Crane, otherwise known as Louise’s Mum. She was surely the oldest person at the party (at age 66) and indeed wearing an original 1980s dress that is likely older than many of the people at the party! Louise made me write this, because she says that without her Mum, she wouldn't be here in the first place to have made the calendar.

After the speeches my memory gets a little hazy - I remember a lot of giggling, chatting with some lovely people, and (a personal highlight) singing in Welsh with Gareth Jones! Sadly when the time came for the karaoke after-party, I bailed and retreated home. But by all accounts the night continued in to the wee small hours.

Now that the launch is over, I’m back to Crumble Towers today to begin posting out the ordered calendars. So if you’ve pre-ordered, start to watch your postbox! If you haven’t bought your calendar yet (and you really should) please go here:

Sunday, 14 October 2012

And a word from our sponsors

This week, after a three-and-a-half-months of hard graft, our calendar went to print. We have Cosima Dinkel to thank for the design, photographers Ben Gilbert, Greg Funnell and Naomi Goggin for the pictures and Louise Crane our Producer (and her team of researchers, writers and production assistants) for everything else. 

Above is the beautiful front cover. The back features a list of all those who have dug deep to bring the calendar to fruition, including our generous sponsors. This blog is for them. 

ScienceGrrl has formed very organically, a network of like-minded people who have drawn together around the common purpose of showing the true face of female science, of demonstrating that science is for everyone and encouraging more girls and young women to explore science for themselves.

I have always felt that this movement is bigger than me and anything I may have that approximates to a good idea. That was more than proven last week, when myself, Anna Zecharia, Ellie Cosgrave and Louise Crane had our first ScienceGrrl committee meeting over wine and cheese at Louise's flat. I'd proposed an agenda but the ladies pulled my ideas back to first principles – ScienceGrrl collaborates, consults, moves forwards together.

Bearing this in mind, it is hardly surprising that we have been very careful and intentional about our sources of funding. We've had several suggestions and offers of corporate funding, but wanted to avoid this, and make it clear the network was independent and not owned by any particular business. We instead approached Universities and charitable organisations, and have so far received pledges totalling £4600 from the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol, University of Durham, Biomedical Imaging Institute at the University of Manchester, Society for Applied Microbiology, Futuremorph (part of the Science Council), University of Bristol IDC in Systems, The Ogden Trust and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

However, the largest single contribution to our funding has come from crowdfunding via Sponsume. One weekend in early September, I hacked together a home video outlining the project's aims and what our supporters would receive as rewards for donations of £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100. We optimistically asked for £3000 to cover our printing costs. Over the weeks that followed, we reminded, goaded and bribed our Twitter followers with the promise of photoshoot out-takes... and people gave, gave and gave some more until we hit 89% of our target.

So it is that we have very nearly covered our costs from donations, so almost all the proceeds from the calendar will go towards projects that encourage more girls and young women into science.

I'm deeply moved by the commitment this represents, by organisations and individuals alike, particularly in times of restricted budgets, spending cuts and household belt-tightening. It is a resounding vote of confidence in ScienceGrrl, what we are trying to do and how we are going about it. Thankyou all so much.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Blast from the past

The best thing about ScienceGrrl is that it is often a total blast, great fun with amazing people. Monday 1st of October was one such day.

I legged it out of the office at 11:35am, got stuck in studenty traffic and only just made it onto the 12:15am to London Euston. I flicked between phone calls, reading papers and checking e-mail on the way down, before getting the tube to Wood Green and strolling up the hill to Alexandra Palace in the autumn sunshine, taking in the warm sweet air, turning colours of the leaves, and the stunning view across London on such a clear day.

Having checked myself through security and negotiated the wonderfully retro cage lift, I sneaked into the back of a studio once used for some of the BBC's first broadcasts in the 1930s. Amongst the old-fashioned TVs, stage lights and TV cameras, photographer Greg Funnell and his assistant Ben were busy directing Gia Milinovich, Fran Scott, and former Tomorrow's World presenters Kate Bellingham, Gareth Jones (formerly known as Gaz Top), Carmen Nassé (nee Pryce) and Katie Ross (nee Knapman), all resplendent in 1970s dress. 

My heart leapt a little when I saw the same faces I remember smiling back at me from science TV programmes when I was younger - these were some of the people who made science cool, fun, and exciting for me and many of my generation. I'm sorry if that makes them feel old, because they are genuinely as young and vibrant as ever.

There began a good hour and a half of good-natured messing about, posing, banter and the kind of tomfoolery that comes easily to those who have not only done this sort of thing a thousand times but are also very much at home in each other's company. Somehow a Rubiks cube, a conical flask of something very dubious-looking, an oscilloscope and selected items from Fran's impressive collection of PPE also made an appearance. The joy was palpable, and I laughed out loud several times.

It wasn't a cheap day out and I worked late twice last week to make up my hours, but you know what? 
Some things are worth it.